Amanda Griffith

An engineer like me: How perceived similarity and peer effects influence major choice

Awarded $47,350 for the period 9/1/15 to 8/31/17

Source: National Science Foundation (NSF)/Purdue University

The project examines how peer characteristics influence major choice. Students in the College of Engineering at Purdue University must pick a specialty at the end of their first year. They receive information about the different programs and observe the characteristics of the students who major in them. With the support of a WFU undergraduate research assistant, Dr. Griffith and the PI at Purdue, Joyce Main, will analyze what factors influence decisions.

Jac C. Heckleman

Delegate Voting at the Constitutional Convention

Awarded $29,536 for the period 2/2/10 to 2/28/11

Source: NSF/University of Georgia

History, law, economics, and political science scholars have extensively studied the Constitutional Convention, but few hypotheses about delegate voting behavior and preferences have been evaluated empirically, primarily because only state votes were recorded. This project aims to recover individual delegate votes from statements made in debate coupled with attendance records, state-level votes, and the formal rule that a majority of its delegates determined a state’s vote. Estimates will be used to test three hypotheses: 1) whether delegates were influenced by their economic interests (the Beard thesis); 2) whether the Great Compromise altered delegate preferences; and 3) whether a few key delegates were persuaded to change their positions. Results will inform theories about representation, the constitutional process, and development of institutions, and legal interpretations of original intent. If the framers voted according to the interests they were supposed to represent, then deliberative settings may be adequate for constitutional reform. However, if they voted to promote their own economic interests, or their preferences were contingent on the adoption of major institutions, referenda or other forms of direct democracy may be better for constitutional reform.

American Founding: Motivation of the Framers at the Constitutional Convention

Awarded $27,777 for the period 9/1/04 to 6/30/05

Source: NSF

This project seeks to determine the motivation of the framers of the US Constitution and framers generally. For the last century, scholars have debated the motives of delegates to the 1789 Constitutional Convention. Some argue that they voted according to their personal economic interests (McGuire and Ohsfeldt 1986; McGuire 2003; Beard 1913); others, that they voted according to national interests or political ideologies (Brown 1956; Wood 1969; Roche 1961; Diamond 1981). If framers vote according to the interests that they are supposed to represent, then deliberative settings like constitutional conventions may be adequate for reform. However, if they vote to promote their own interest or that of a constituency, then referenda or other forms of direct democracy will be needed.

The project will expand current understandings of the constitutional convention in three ways. First, using state roll call votes, letters, debate notes, speeches, and newspaper submissions that were unavailable when McDonald (1958) originally inferred 16 delegate voting patterns, it should at least double the data. Second, it will test more precisely Beard’s thesis and theories about ideology and rational self-interest. Third, it will analyze the types of constituent interests that may have affected voting behavior: who elected delegates to the convention, who the delegates allegedly represented, and who might elect delegates to future posts. Results will have important implications for political science, economics, and law.

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